Banqueting House, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday was possibly the most awkwardly timed summer party I have ever attended, and not just because of the ironic grey clouds hanging around outside the window.
Just a week after the publication of the ISC’s report into allowing certain vendors’ equipment into our critical national infrastructure, Huawei hired out Banqueting House, smack bang in the middle of Whitehall, for its annual bash.
The event was mostly for customers and high profile ones at that – I had a very nice chat with representatives from Telefonica Digital and EE – but there was also a smattering of intrigued MPs, such as Stephen Timms, and, of course, a few journalists like me.
Huawei’s PR team told me the event was planned months ago to coincide with the opening of its new UK headquarters down in Reading, but they couldn’t keep the sad expressions from their faces that any event this close to the ISC report would focus on the more controversial topic of whether the Chinese firm could be trusted by the British, not a shiny new building.
David Willetts, minister for universities and science, gave the opening address, which showed what a different attitude the UK had to the US for example, which has damned using Huawei as a threat to national security.
Instead WIlletts was very focused on the economic growth we could gain from the firm’s investment, not just with jobs at home but with exchange programmes, research sponsorship and SME partnerships all tied in with this growing company.
The cynic in me is unsurprised that the Tory politician thinks of profit and private markets before safety and security, but in all honesty, there is still yet to be any proof Huawei’s equipment is capable of leaking information to the Chinese government, unlike its proven track record of booming results and growth across the world.
The only thing that laid it on too thick for me was the speech by Huawei’s CFO, Cathy Meng, who whilst a calming influence, used the word trust around seven or eight times in her three minute delivery, and I really don’t think even the cabinet are that trusting of Chine telecoms firms.
What we need is some categorical proof either way about Huawei’s equipment, not scaremongering US politicians or incredibly British reports that focus on the process rather than the technology.
If it is shown on paper the kit is safe, maybe next
year’s summer party won’t be such a nervewracking experience for everyone involved and words like ‘trust’ and ‘transparency’ from MPs and CFOs will be more believable.